In a time of great disruption, it is easy to conclude that since everything has changed, all of our plans are outdated and maybe even useless. It can be tempting just to abandon our talent development strategy—or at the very least, put it on indefinite hold. Don’t. Don’t wait to see what happens next or for the way forward to become clearer. Pursue your strategy and goals.
Sure, you may have to do some adjusting or maybe even pivot. But if you look at the key elements of your strategy, you will likely see that most of it remains relevant and critical. It is useful to think about your strategy in terms of what is not new or different, what is not new but needs to be different, and what new needs should be added to the plan.
Not New and Not DifferentWhat is in your strategy was put there for specific reasons. Customer service employees and sales people still need product training. Machinists and equipment operators continue to use the same equipment. OSHA and compliance trainings are still required. It will vary by organization, but a great deal of what the organization has counted on us for remains the same.
Maybe Not New, but DifferentIt is likely that your strategy already included focus on management and leadership development, culture, teams, communications, sales and customer care skills, and a host of capabilities that are more important than ever. Some of what you deliver may need to be adjusted to reflect new concerns about health and safety and the new systems, process and rules that have resulted. In my organization, customer care now includes training on “how to smile through your mask.”
And yes, for some the difference will be that they need to get the training virtually. But not every organization can decide to move to virtual work. Hospitality, healthcare, retail, and many other industries have front-facing workforces. Some never went virtual. Some have but will be back. For them, how this will be achieved may be in carefully maintained and socially distanced in-person programs.
New and Never NormalThe new priorities that may need to be added to your strategy will also vary by the nature of each organization. Products, services, customers, and competitors may be different. All of us likely will be called upon to help create safer environments, new ways for employees to connect and share, and new ways to use technology. My experience tells me that you cannot prepare enough for those employees who will return. They will need help and guidance about how to be back. Things have changed and everyone needs to be reboarded with opportunities for others to reskill or upskill. Those not returning by choice or due to unfortunate layoffs can be assisted through outskilling programs in partnership with area businesses or to prepare the previous employee to become the entrepreneur they have also desired to become.
Though it will undoubtedly require some adjustments, don’t put your strategy aside. Instead, redouble your efforts to achieve those goals you set. Don’t change just because you had to, so you may as well keep doing it. Don’t shift just because you can or because people are more willing to accept the change. Change only what will be better if it is changed. That is the way to stay the course.